Conquering the frontier via the Internet
September 27, 2010 in: Reflections on the River
The frontier is what shaped the American mettle, according to Frederick Jackson Turner’s famous thesis. The challenge of taming the wilderness, outsmarting the elements and staking a claim forged the spirit that can triumph in the face of adversity and take a moral stand in the process.
Jackson was pretty concerned that in 1890 the federal government declared the frontier was closed. Never fear, however; the pioneer spirit has prevailed and the frontier has made a comeback. I am now conquering the wilderness – via the computer game Frontierville.
My fascination with American history dates back at least to third grade. Mrs. Gates introduced the Dewey decimal system in the library, teaching us that that the 921 section was biographies. She said it made her sad that boys and girls hardly ever checked out those books because there were so many good stories.
Mrs. Gates was such a wonderful librarian, I took it upon myself to make her happy and read nearly every 921 book in the Eugene Field library. The Colonists fascinated me, the American Revolution fueled my patriotism and the Civil War captured my imagination. It was the pioneers, however, who inspired me.
I rearranged my room to be like a log cabin. I made long skirts for my Barbie dolls and sent Ken out to chop wood. All these years later, a notice popped up on Facebook for a new Frontierville game and it lured me right in. In the tradition of the class
ic computer game Oregon Trail, history meets technology on the computer. I signed up to play and was given a plot of land with the task of clearing trees, building a cabin and planting crops.
With five clicks of the mouse, a pine tree fell. Another few clicks earned enough coins to buy a pig at the market. After receiving nails and a hammer from Facebook neighbors, the cabin was built. I’m meeting the challenge of the wilderness; the American spirit is alive and well.
The cyber version of Frontierville, however, may not be as historically accurate as Mrs. Gates would like. The last crop I planted was a field of cotton. This seems like an unusual choice to survive the uncivilized West. It does fit right in with the pumpkins, tomatoes, clover and peanuts. Yes, peanuts on the prairie. The crop gets ripe right on schedule, no hail, drought or boll weevils t
Right next to the pumpkin patch is a goat. Never once has it reached over to nibble off a tomato. Even so, I thought it’d be a good idea to buy some fence with the coins I’d made picking cherries. But in the marketplace, no fence was to be found. Finally, I located it under the “decorations” section. I’ve seen a lot of fence built to keep in pigs and cattle, none of which I would consid
By doing chores, such as picking peaches which get ripe every other day, I earn food credits, which are symbolized by a piece of cherry pie. Not one of Mrs. Gates’ books described pioneers subsisting on cherry pie. Pemmican and beans, more likely.
One of the challenges on Frontierville is keeping the grass and trees cleared while chasing off snakes and bears. You can visit neighbors’ homesteads and help out with chores to earn coins. I thought I was a frontier failure because all my friends’ farms were free ofs weed and snakes. But I’m starting to think the game just doesn’t show you those things on other homesteads. That is a nice consideration. Neighbors visiting my farm are welcome to cut down any trees not bearing fruit.
On some level I recognize that I am not actually chopping down trees or harvesting peanuts on the frontier. I’m really just sitting in my climate-controlled home clicking a button on a machine. But in my heart, I know if I came down to it, I could wield an axe or clobber a snake or grow my own tomatoes. I don’t have a recipe for pemmican, but could surely find one on the internet. And if times get really hard, I make a really good cherry pie.